Last week the University of San Francisco (USF) celebrated Bon Appétit Management Company's 2nd annual Low Carbon Diet Day with an early kick-off event (Low Carbon Diet Day is April 22nd) at The Market Café. We were onsite to taste all the delicious food and see first-hand how a café that feeds a whopping 8,000 hungry students each day serves up first-rate climate-friendly fare.
In just a few short years, Executive Chef Jon Hall and his team of talented chefs have excelled in incorporating the Low Carbon Diet commitments into their daily-changing menus. One of their many achievements towards this end is the reduction of beef consumption by half! And this wasn't accomplished by taking beef off the menus. Instead, Jon created flavorful, enticing dishes that were alternatives to beef and attracted students to lower carbon options. This success, combined with other Bon Appétit commitments, like sourcing all of their produce from North America and cutting down on food waste, makes USF’s culinary staff true Low Carbon Diet leaders. When we visited, it was wonderful to witness the culinary team spend the lunch hour in the café mingling with students, answering questions, and seeing which of their creations the students were most excited to dig into (the first-of-the-season roasted asparagus was a big hit).
A Farm Stand for the Students
Every few weeks the USF Bon Appétit team arranges for several local farms and artisan food purveyors to come into the café and set up a mini-farmers’ market where students can taste and buy farm-fresh produce. On Low Carbon Diet Day special guests included a third-generation citrus farmer on hand to juice generous cups of organic orange juice, across from a stand displaying overflowing baskets of heirloom vegetables, which the chefs expertly prepared for lunch and the students stocked up on for their own culinary endeavors at home. There was also one farmer who brought bags of multicolored heirloom potatoes, another who sold a dozen varieties of honey, and one artisan who offered up some very snack-worthy brittle made with local, organic nuts.
Low Carbon Menu Highlights
No question, the cheeseburger is quintessential college cuisine, but it also features two of the biggest carbon-culprits – beef and cheese. So what’s the grill master to do? The USF team didn’t miss a beat and served up mouthwatering turkey burgers (made with local, Diestel turkey) topped with creamy California avocado to a long line of eager customers. And while cheese pizza might normally be a shoe in for most-popular nosh, we’d argue that the cheese-less, hand-tossed Hoisin pork pizza would give its dairy-counterpart a run for its money. Surprising to many, rice has a significant carbon footprint. The creative chefs replaced rice with nutty, whole-grain quinoa, which we enjoyed tucked into a burrito with black beans and local, sustainably farm-raised tilapia.
Our day at USF showed us that important learning happens inside and outside of the classroom. That’s why we’re so excited about our new Facebook Low Carbon Diet Quiz. Are you carbon-savvy? Know the eco-friendly way to stuff a burrito or select a soup? Now anyone can test their smarts and challenge their friends with the first socially-networked Low Carbon Diet Quiz.
It certainly wasn’t a challenge to clean our plates, but we did notice that, as students finished their lunches, if any food was untouched, not a speck went to waste – there were five composting bins, two recycling bins, and just one lone trash bin posted at the exit. Overall, the USF team’s serious commitment to tackling climate change with each and every delectable plate left us well-fed and inspired. We eagerly await the Low Carbon Diet Day celebrations at the many other participating college and university cafés on April 22nd such as American University, Case Western Reserve University, Dominican University of California, Goucher College, Hamilton College, Lewis & Clark College, Macalester College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern College, Oberlin College, St. Olaf College, University of Redlands, Washington University in St. Louis, Whitman College, Woodbury University, and others!
-Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager
(p.s. these great photos are from Scott Chernis Photography)